Sunny Sweeney - Trophy
Halfway through Sunny Sweeney’s fourth album there’s a song called ‘Bottle By My Bed’. Now as this is a country record you know exactly what to expect from that track. Right? Wrong. Emphatically wrong. It’s not about whiskey or bourbon, it’s about babies. Or the lack of. It’s a sad, introspective take on what it’s like to be childless when it’s not your choice; its killer line: “I only call my husband baby cause I love that word” It’s beautiful, clever, touching, and typical of the Texan.
In the eleven years since her 2006 debut, Heartbreaker Hall Of Fame, Sweeney has kept somewhat under the radar. 2011’s Concrete is her only release on a major label, though 2014’s Provoked was a hugely better album. Really though it was just a scene setter for Trophy. Sharing a producer - Dave Brainard - with Brandy Clark’s breakthrough, 12 Stories, is not the only thing that Trophy shares with that 2013 album. These ten tracks are also snippets of life, stories of people and the things they go through; more personal songs such as ‘Bottle By My Bed’ make them more than just stories.
Right from the off this is unashamedly a proper country record. The Houston singer tackles bar drinking right up front on the steel assisted ‘Pass The Pain’; there’s ‘Pills’, the most rollicking sing-a-long about prescription pills you’ll hear; the title track - one of four songs written with Lori McKenna - is a wicked takedown of a partner's ex-girlfriend / wife (“I know what you call me / That word fits me like a tee”); the Miranda Lambert-esque ‘Better Bad Idea’ is a country-rock twanger.
‘Unsaid’ is understatedly brilliant, showing not only Sweeney’s top drawer vocals but the real subtlety of her songwriting talent (“You don’t hear church bells on a Tuesday”). And that’s the real trick that Sweeney pulls off, that mix of the uptempo and radio friendly with the devastating and personal. Trophy is a showcase for both and deserves to be the breakthrough that Sunny Sweeney’s been threatening for nearly a decade.